Carling Cup - Fergie in Spain as United win
Michael Owen scored twice as Manchester United’s second string came from behind to beat Championship Scunthorpe 5-2 in the third round of the Carling Cup, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson absent from Glanford Park.
Darron Gibson, Chris Smalling and Park Ji-sung hit the other goals as United made the most of limited chances while Ferguson preferred to fly to Spain to watch Champions League opponents Valencia host Atletico Madrid.
A screamer from Josh Wright had opened the scoring for the hosts, with Martyn Woolford grabbing an injury-time consolation for the plucky Iron.
It was an encouraging performance for both sides: Scunthorpe more than held their own for the first 45 minutes, while United’s reserves performed capably and Owen - whose last start came when he scored and was injured in last February’s Carling Cup final - showed a turn of pace for his first and a knack for poaching for his second.
United made 11 changes from the team that beat Liverpool 3-2 at the weekend - plus absent boss Ferguson - but their starting XI contained eight full internationals.
Scunthorpe showed no interest in reputation though and attacked United from the outset, dominating the opening exchanges and going close through Woolford twice and on-loan Preston full-back Eddie Nolan, who forced Tomasz Kuszczak into saves within the first 15 minutes.
They took a deserved lead soon afterwards, when Wright smashed a brilliant drive into the top left from the edge of the D, leaving Kuszczak with no chance for his first goal in 50 games for the club.
United barely had a sniff until that point, with a front trio of Owen, Federico Macheda and Javier Hernandez sluggish, toothless and hardly getting a touch.
But they levelled soon after conceding when midfielder Gibson raced into the channel to meet Smalling’s long ball with a delightful lob over the onrushing Joe Murphy.
Scunthorpe reacted well, with Jonathan Forde particularly impressive as he gave the United back four - and Rio Ferdinand in particular - a torrid time with his quick, direct running.
They were unlucky not to go ahead too, as Cliff Byrne somehow headed over after beating West Brown to meet a corner.
Within three minutes United were ahead as they capitalised on one of their rare attacks with another sublime finish.
This time it was defender Smalling, who flew into the box and changed his body shape with impressive athleticism to meet Park’s vicious cross with the instep of his right boot, sending the flick across Murphy into the far left corner.
It was not a true reflection of the game at that point - Scunthorpe had more possession and twice as many efforts on goal as United in the first half - and the visitors could have been 3-1 up just before the break, as Macheda somehow put over when Hernandez’s excellent left-wing cross handed him a free header.
The second half started in similar fashion as the hosts put United under pressure from the off.
But the reigning champions quickly ended any hopes of a comeback as, after a clever Macheda through ball, Owen showed a surprising turn of pace to run off the home defence and rifle a crisp finish past Murphy.
That was three minutes into the second 45 and - four minutes after Owen pounced - Park made it four, exploiting naive defending at a corner to slam a loose ball into the bottom right corner.
Scunthorpe were subsequently limited to long-rang shots that Kuszczak fielded comfortably as they gamely pressed for a second goal.
For United Hernandez had a header saved by Murphy, while Bebe was handed a first-team debut before Owen made it five, bundling the ball over the line after Murphy failed to hold Park’s straight drive.
There was a two-minute interlude as a streaker provided welcome distraction for the good-humoured home fans, who asked Manchester United players who they were and occasionally sung City songs.
Woolford provided them with more to cheer as he prodded the ball home after a corner, with Kuszczak - who made several stops but was almost caught out when he loosely parried the ball into his own net in the first half - guilty of getting down late.
That was the last major act in the game which United rode out comfortably despite their first-half scare.